Bidding for Housing Grant

Lately I’ve been getting a lot of queries on the latest HCA bid round. Questions range from “how do we bid for the HCA money for our scheme?”, to “how much will we get?” to, “are we eligible?”.

My own view is you need to get the basics correct before you do anything so I prepared a quick checklist of things that needs to be in place before any bidding is put in place.


1. RTM – Read the Manual

Shared Ownership and Affordable Homes Programme v2Have you actually read the bid criteria? This may sound stupid, but do you know what the grant money is for? The type of housing? Do you know the delivery timeline? Have you spoken to HCA Investment Managers? Do you know what the HCA is looking for? Are you eligible to even bid? What are the government’s priorities? SOAHP? AHP?

There is money for non-standard housing such as Gypsy and Traveller, Supported Housing, Housing for the Elderly. Are you familiar with HCA terminology? Tranches? General Needs? Purchase and Repair? Affordable Rent? Golden Brick? Do you know about the Capital Funding Guide?



2TINSTAAFL – “There Is No Such Thing As A Free Lunch”

What if I told You There is no Such Thing as a Free LunchAre you aware that there are grant conditions attached to any grant you get from the HCA?  Have you read through and understood the Capital Funding Guide? You are required to meet certain milestones and deadlines. Do you know about Compliance Audit? Do you know about Quality Audits? Are you aware of additional guidance and supplementary information you need to comply with when bidding? Are aware of milestones? Claiming at milestones? Thresholds on grant levels? Differences between “Acquisition and Works! and “Works Only” bids? Do you know about the Regulatory Framework?





This may sound like a daft question but “do you know what you’re doing?”Tools & Expertise Have you got the tools and expertise in house to bid for money from the HCA and meet all the requirements? Work as a consortium? Appoint a consultant? Does the consultant you’ve appointed have the experience and skills? Does the Architect, Contractor and other experts understand the nuances of affordable housing? Do you know about HCA systems? IMS? CA system? Do you know about the development process? JCT Contracts? Building Regulations? Planning Law? Party Wall Act? Other funding routes? There is a specific skill and expertise in knowing how to design housing for a specific client group.



4. Value for Grant

Value for MoneyThe HCA only want to give a certain amount of money per unit for grant due to limited resources, are you meeting that Value for Grant criteria? Do you know what that is?

Delivering “Value for Grant” does not mean you can put in bids for tiny properties. The HCA do not want “shoe box” sized units. Are you aware of what sized properties the HCA are looking for?

Are you aware of other factors that the HCA may consider as “Value for Grant”? Do you know their national and regional priorities?




5. Procurement Route

Procurement RouteThe Procurement route you choose will determine deliverability and how you can meet the requirements of the HCA. Deliverability is key to the HCA. If you cannot deliver on time, then you may risk sanctions from the HCA.

The correct procurement route also determines “Risk”. Risk to cost fluctuations. Risk in terms of design and quality. Do you know about Whole Life Costs?

The procurement route you choose should also reflect the in-house expertise you have. If you have little experience in construction, then Design and Build is probably your best route. Design and Build has its issues, be warned, changes to the design can be costly, and you will not get any more grant for a more expensive scheme.

Coupled with this is the appointment of your own team, Architect, Chartered Surveyor etc., who should have expertise in the deliverability of Affordable Housing.


6. Quality

Despite Design and Quality standards going from the HCA programme, the HCA is still looking for quality. HCA still has statutory duty from Housing and Regeneration Act 2008 to “Contribute to the achievement of sustainable development and good design in England, with a view to meeting the needs of people living in England.” Design and Quality Standards

How does your bid this meet this? Have you adopted Building for Life 12? Are you tackling “Fuel Poverty”? Does your scheme do more than just meet Building Regulations? Nationally Described Space Standards? Have you considered them? With non-standard Housing have you adopted the HAPPI principles? How about the “Non-Mainstream Housing Design Guidance”? What about Gypsy and Traveller sites? What guidance did you use? Have you consulted Design Managers at the HCA at feasibility stage? Have you factored in Whole Life Costs? All HCA Grant funded new build schemes should last at least 60 years.


7. Time

TimeHow quickly deliverable is your scheme?  This point is linked to 1,2,3 4, 5 and 6. Get this right and you are nearly there. If you have a good team/consultant who understands your business needs and the HCA’s goals you could save a lot hassle and time.





8. Cost

CostThis is different from “Value for Grant”. Have you got a handle on the cost of the scheme you are building? This is important, because it will determine your borrowing, and grant requirement. Note also, the HCA want a detailed cost breakdown of your scheme as part of the Compliance Audit.

You need also to get idea of when you can claim grant from the HCA, this will be crucial on working out interest payments on loans. It is available in “tranches” when certain “milestones” are achieved.




My Own Thoughts

The above guide is not meant to be a substitute for reading the HCA guidance and/or using an experienced consultant, but it will certainly set you off in the right direction.

As an experienced consultant, who worked in housing, building and construction for 25 years plus, what still strikes me is, how much “firefighting” still occurs out there. Time and again, I get involved with providers usually when they are panicking, and I am brought in to sort out issues. If you get your team in place from the start it will save you a lot of time and money.

I have expertise in “Bid Enabling” and understand what it takes to get a successful bid. The keys are communication, knowledge and a sprinkling of humility. It’s that simple.

I operate on the principle, that “if I don’t know something, then I do know somebody who does”.

Randip Singh Bahra – BSC (Hons), FRICS – is a Director at Hephaestus Associates. Randip leads on Compliance Audit and Bid Enabling.


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